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The benefits of walking

By: Jim Gisondi

So if you want an easy, less stressful physical activity and avoid injuries, try walking!

Throughout my life I have always somewhat maintained a focus on good health and fitness. From my early years playing sports in grade school, high school, college, and throughout my working career and retirement I have always tried to remain in fairly good physical condition and shape. Sure there were periods that I let my body weight get a little out of control but I always tried to keep doing the physical stuff. I often had gym memberships, attended workouts regularly as well as playing softball in the 30 year old plus leagues until I was sixty-six years old. It was when while living in Enon, Ohio where we retired in 1999 that I became interested in walking for fitness. So I decided that a daily walk of 1 ½ to 2 miles a day around the sub-division would be a way to keep my weight down, build leg strength, and help keep my heart strong. Initially my goal was to walk every day and not miss any but often the harsh Enon, Ohio Winter weather kept me from going out every day, minus -20 degrees is also a great reason to stay in. For motivation I was always trying to keep a “streak “going and recorded each day on a calendar that I was able to walk. I put down the days I walked and indicated on the days that I didn’t the reason why.

I thought setting a goal was a good idea, I thought that if I set a huge goal for a “streak” that probably wouldn’t or couldn’t be reached that would keep me focused. It would be something to motivate me on the days I didn’t really feel like going out to walk. So I set the possibly impossible goal of walking 3,000 days in a row. That number was conceived that averaging 1.2 miles a day which would total 3600 miles, which is the width of the United States of America. For the first ten years of walking I averaged 310 days a year. The best I ever did was to walk 191 consecutive days. There were a few 30-75 day “streaks” along the way but one year we had a mild winter and that’s when the 191 days was accomplished. Nowhere near the goal of 3,000 days in a row. My attempt at keeping a “streak” going was often interrupted by a lot of different things but mostly the weather.

We moved to Bainbridge, Georgia in September 2008 and thanks to a 100% different climate in Southern Georgia than in Ohio I was able to walk almost every day with some exceptions. An added bonus was that we live about a half mile from Bainbridge State College At the college we have a normal route that covers about 2 miles that contains a Nature Trail and a lot of shade against the brutal Georgia heat. My dedication increased living in Georgia and I found fewer excuses not to walk. I could see the distinct possibility of walking year round.

If ever there was a time to consider completing the mythical 3,000, this was it.

Starting in mid-July 2010 I began the assault on the “streak” to end all streaks. Due to a few bouts of the flu, a badly swollen ankle, and a case of the gout, there were days that I probably shouldn’t have even attempted to go out, but I did anyway. On these trying occasions I used a cane to help steady me, wrapped myself in a heavy blanket, cut back on the distance, and made other adjustments. There were times when finding time was difficult. On one occasion at 11:30 at night I realized I hadn’t walked that day so I grabbed a flashlight and my dog Ginger and I headed out to finish before midnight and get credit for the day.

The days began to add up, first it was whole year then 500 days, then 1,000, then 1,500 then 2,000 and unbelievably I hit 2,500.Wow! I actually had a chance. On July 23rd 2018 I completed day 3,000 in a row. That’s the equivalent of 8.2 years straight without missing a day. There was no ceremony held that day. The Bainbridge High School Marching Band was out of town and the Post-Searchlight only came out twice a week then so I jumped in the pool, got on a raft, looked up at the sky and just smiled contently! It was then that I thought that it’s only a couple of more years to go over ten years I think I could do that!

Through the years an additional benefit to walking, which originally came as a surprise to me, was incorporated in my walks when we came to Bainbridge. The benefit first surfaced one day many years ago while walking my wife observed that I have no natural arm swing so I got the bright idea of carrying a thin four foot apple tree branch that I could swing as I walked.

I also figured that there could be another use for the branch. I hammered a nail into one end and like I did as a very young boy when working at the local Dairy Queen picking up trash in the parking lot for free ice cream cones I find my old stick and use it here.

I’ve used the same stick for over 20 years walking and picking up peoples blatant bad littering habits. I figured that if you were out walking you might as well make yourself, useful. So when out walking I “spear” the trash put it in a plastic bag and take it home.

So walking can be good for you as well helping the environment.

UPDATE: Since this article was first published in 2018 in the Post-Searchlight I have reached another Milestone. On May 6th 2020 I extended “The Streak” to the 10 year mark (3655 days) of consecutive days walking. A lot of credit for this accomplishment goes to my wife Linda who walks with me every day she can. Often she was the one who pushed me “to get up and get going” when my enthusiasm was waning She has always given me support, inspiration and encouragement and who also is on a streak of her own. She is currently on a streak of 1020 days which would be over eighteen-hundred days had she  not suffered a “Tomato Related” back injury in our garden three years ago which required surgery. Unlike the previous milestone of 3000 days this time I did celebrate the achievement. While doing our walk at the College that day, I stopped and rang the old Cyrene School Bell, that’s on display, ten times as loud as I could. I now consider myself the “Cal Ripken, Jr. of daily walking”. I do not plan to quit this current “streak” even though I have reached my latest goal but when it finally ends …..It ends! …and then you start over!

NOTE: You know you can’t outwalk Father Time and he will eventually catch up with us all, I’m just trying to stay a little ahead of him!

The key is to keep trying, perseverance is the name of the game and if you stay healthy you may postpone or eliminate some potential medical problems down the road. So give walking a try, it doesn’t hurt!